Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ender's Game, chapter fifteen, in which the victims blame themselves

It's eight months to the day since I started this thing.  For those of you who have endured from day one: thankya kindly.  For those of you who dropped in along the way: welcome.  For those of you who have some sadomasochistic tendencies and are really excited to see me continue with either Ender's Shadow or Speaker for the Dead, leave your preferences in the comments below.  The Ender's Game movie (which was in development hell back in the late 1990s when I first read this book) opened Friday and everything I have seen, such as Ana Mardoll's film corner, suggests that it is terrible.  So I'll get you some commentary on that as well in due course.  You know; once I somehow obtain completely legal access to the film.  But first, the final chapter, which gets better as it goes along.

(Content: abuse apologetics, ableism, colonialism apologetics. Fun content: pirates, Phoenix Wright, aliens Jesus.)

Ender's Game: p. 305--324
Chapter Fifteen: Speaker for the Dead

The featureless plane of disembodied dialogue is gone; Graff and Anderson are hanging out at the lakeside.  We open with some gratuitous fat hatred because obviously--Graff is apparently slim again, stating that while the stress of the war caused him to gain weight, the stress of being court-martialled took it off again.  He explains that he was never worried that he wouldn't be acquitted:
"As much as anything, I think the videos saved me.  The prosecution edited them, but we showed the whole thing.  It was plain that Ender was not the provocateur.  After that, it was just a second-guessing game. [...] We got the judges to agree that the prosecution had to prove beyond doubt that Ender would have won the war without the training we gave him.  After that, it was simple."

It's like some kind of nightmarish reversal of presumption of innocence.  Graff has apparently been acquitted because no one can prove that murdering Stilson wasn't a completely essential module of Ender's curriculum.  Murder is presumed necessary unless proven optional (which I guess fits with the rest of the military philosophy we've seen so far).  I hope Ender wore a helmet in the courtroom.  You know, to protect him from all the kangaroos.

They also discuss how Ender is never coming back to Earth, despite Demosthenes pressuring the Hegemon.  Graff says Demosthenes has retired, and refuses to reveal Valentine's identity, which I guess is a not-terrible thing to do.  He does say that Demosthenes wasn't really the one who wanted Ender back on Earth--Locke did (while publicly arguing that Ender needed to stay away) and Demosthenes talked him out of it, what with the whole Invincible Warrior God-Child thing Ender would have had have going for him.  They're all going to rest instead.  Anderson's the new football commissioner.  Graff is the first Minister of Colonization, because clearly a life in military education makes him... an ideal policy-maker for the appropriate way to organise and disperse the human population?  ("The second rule of Colony Club is you do not talk about Colony Club.")  Mind you, Graff does have the mind of a colonist in the old meet-new-people-take-their-land-and-commit-war-crimes style.
"As soon as we get the reports back on the bugger colony worlds.  I mean, there they are, already fertile, with housing and industry in place, and all the buggers dead.  Very convenient.  We'll repeal the population limitation laws [...] and all those thirds and fourths and fifths will get on starships and head out for worlds known and unknown."
You know, I hadn't thought about it until last week's comment thread, but why aren't there queens on any of the formic colony worlds?  Why didn't Ender have to bust planet after planet to eradicate them all?  And why in the world would formic housing and industry be remotely suitable for human use?  Colonists are going to get to these worlds and find decaying, rusty cemetary-cities filled with the desiccated husks of millions of nightmares.  Honestly, who wants to sign up for that instead of, you know, base camp?  I want to hang out at base camp.  Forget hive cities.

Back in space--Ender's remained on Eros for a year.  He's been awarded the rank of admiral, because that's how the space navy works, obviously, and that gave him the authority to watch Graff's trial, so he knows everything now, knows how Stilson and Bonzo died, hears the case made against him by eeeeevil psychiatrists:
[He] listened as the psychologists and lawyers argued whether murder had been committed or the killing was in self-defense.  Ender had his own opinion, but no one asked him.  Throughout the trial, it was really Ender himself under attack.  The prosecution was too clever to charge him directly, but there were attempts to make him look sick, perverted, criminally insane.
Trying to court-martial a colonel by instead expounding roundabout ableist psychological slander against the colonel's prize student who is the favourite person of everyone on the entire planet does not sound like the actions of someone 'too clever'.  That sounds hilariously inept.  You court-martial Graff by asserting that he gambled humanity's survival on the belief that a miraculous military strategist would find a way to survive a fistfight to the death, and put it on Graff to somehow prove that it was necessary to do this, despite the thirty-six other genius commanders all performing so well without killing two classmates.  Then you move on to handling Ender by screaming "THERAPY, THERAPY FOR EVERYONE, IS ANYONE PAYING ATTENTION" and so forth.  Obviously.

All of Ender's friends go home, one by one, and he watches the videos of their triumphant returns, but then nothing more until the first colonists start to come to Eros, because apparently the secret headquarters of the International Fleet makes a much better docking hub than, say, the other non-secret place we know to exist that is called Inter-Stellar Launch.  My god.  Did they just cancel the military now that the formics are dead?  Is that how that works?
The one thing he could not bear was the worship of the colonists.  He learned to avoid the tunnels where they lived, because they would always recognize him--the world had memorized his face--and then they would scream and shout and embrace him and congratulate him and show him the children they had named after him and tell him how  he was so young it broke their hearts and they didn't blame him for any of his murders because it wasn't his fault he was just a child-- 
He hid from the as best he could.
Sounds about right, yeah.  Ender refuses to let himself off the hook for Stilson, for Bonzo, for the entire formic civilisation, and I suspect we're supposed to think he's being too hard on himself, but anything less would be even more terrifying, and so this rings true.  All too much of human history (and present) tells us how quickly we forgive murderers if they're on 'our side'.

And then one day, as Ender is helping with starship construction--he's decided he needs a new profession, also a good move--Valentine appears and asks him to go with her on the first wave of colony ships.  Two years from their perspective, fifty years to the rest of the universe.  Valentine implies that it's quite intentional that they would never see Peter again, and apologetically adds that she made sure Ender can't go back to Earth, because Peter is halfway to ruling the Hegemon's Council already.  The war on Earth a year earlier was ended by the culmination of Peter's plan, Locke and Demosthenes combining their forces like the Wonder Twins: Shape of--an insufferable snob!  Form of--a screaming racist mob!
"He decided to be a statesman?" 
"I think so.  But in his cynical moments, of which there are many, he pointed out to me that if he had allowed the League to fall apart completely, he'd have had to conquer the world piece by piece.  As long as the Hegemony existed, he could do it in one lump." 
Ender nodded.  "That's the Peter that I knew."
Yeah, Ender, that does sound like someone you'd feel superior too.  That rat bastard of a brother of yours who just goes and benefits from saving the world.  I have a wild guess that exactly zero of those still-breathing civilians would prefer to be dead as a statement on Peter's supposed moral vacuum.
"Funny, isn't it?  That Peter would save millions of lives." 
"While I killed billions." 
"I wasn't going to say that."
Well, what were you going to say, Valentine?  Because that's a really weird thing to just throw in there.  Peter has always been about power over people; wanting to have as many subjects as possible is exactly in-character for him.  Your conviction that he's made of murderousness is fanon.  But Valentine explains that Peter intended to use Ender as his last stepping-stone to planetary domination, so she threatened him with compilations of videos of him tormenting Ender as a child and pictures of slaughtered squirrels, "enough to prove in the eyes of the public that he was a psychotic killer".  Remember what I said before about this book being consistently sympathetic and positive about having and handling mental illness?  I take it back.  Mental illness is only a reason to be sympathetic to people we like; for the people we hate, it's an incurable condemnation and a weapon to be used against them.

Valentine further explains that in her final Demosthenes essay she announced that she was going to take the first colony ship out, and for some bizarre reason Graff announced that Mazer Rackham was going to be the pilot, which probably confused a hell of a lot of people who aren't very familiar with relativistic time dilation or who would like to know what qualifies a military tactician from eighty years ago to drive a modern civilian space ark, and that Ender would be the colonial governor--though Valentine quickly adds Ender has time to cancel the announcement if he doesn't want to, which is I guess the kind of agency that you get when it's your loving sister manipulating you instead of the military dictatorship.  Ender agrees, he says, because he wants to see the formic worlds and try to understand where they came from.

Just saying: not hard to empathise with a corpse.

The voyage passes uneventfully (hah, no, Card went back and wrote an entire interquel about it, which I made the mistake of reading) and years pass on the colony world as Ender learns to govern and sets up an economy and tries to study what remains of the formics.  There isn't a lot, because their species had a literal living social memory and so they never kept books or whatever--though I wonder if they didn't have, say, specialised drones whose job it was to maintain continuity of thought, or if they just had flawless/eidetic memory or what.  Regardless, Ender looks at their architecture: strong roofs hint that winters were hard, staked fences show that there are wild animal problems:
And from the slings that once were used to carry infants along with adults into the fields, he learned that even though the buggers were not much for individuality, they did care for their young.
So, the vast majority of the population are made up of female drones that can't reproduce anyway, and all young are derived from a tiny handful of queens, but they lack the specialised labour to maintain nurseries and instead prefer to have random drones haul larvae around while they're doing agricultural work?  I'm guessing this is a remnant of the original story where the aliens functioned in some completely different, vastly more humanoid way?

The colony stops caring much about what things are like back on Earth, although they hear that Peter finally becomes Hegemon.  Valentine, still writing under the Demosthenes name, writes history books, seven volumes of the human-formic wars.  She says she'll write one more, the life of Ender Wiggin, but Ender tries to talk her out of it.  When there's a year left before the next colony ship arrives, Ender goes to scout out a new place for a village, and takes an eleven-year-old kid named Abra with him as his, I don't know, caddy.  Three days away from their town, they find strange hills:
A deep depression in the middle, partially filled with water, was ringed by concave slopes that cantilevered dangerously over the water.  In one direction the hill gave away to two long ridges that made a V-shaped valley; in the other direction the hill rose to a piece of white rock, grinning like a skull with a tree growing out of its mouth. 
"It's like a giant died here," said Abra, "and the Earth grew up to cover his carcass."
It looks, in point of fact, exactly like Fairyland in the mind game.  There's an overgrown playground nearby, like the one where Ender fought the child-faced wolves.  The formics built it, fifty years earlier, during the war.  Ender tries to send Abra away; Abra warns Ender that it might be a trap; Ender says he doesn't care if they want revenge.  They keep flying (apparently they've been in a helicopter all this time?  Three days by helicopter seems like a hell of a long way between the only two human settlements on the planet) and find the cliff and the ledge and the tower at the End of the World.  Ender leaves Abra in the chopper and climbs the wall. The same room is there, with the mirror that showed Peter's face, though it's just a dull sheet of metal with a rough humanoid face scratched into it.  Behind that, a dormant, silk-wrapped pupal formic queen, and Ender instantly knows that she carries enough fertilised eggs to start a colony on her own.  She links to his mind, the philotic effect, and Ender realises why he had so many nightmares at Eros--as the formics traced his mind back through the ansible and tried to understand him.  She shows him her birth, the old queen preparing her, memories of the campaign as the human fleets destroyed the formics over and over.
She had not thought these words as she saw the humans coming to kill, but it was in words that Ender understood her: The humans did not forgive us, she thought.  We will surely die. [....]
We are like you; the thought pressed into his mind.  We did not mean to murder, and when we understood, we never came again.  We thought we were the only thinking beings in the universe, until we met you, but never did we dream that thought could arise from the lonely animals who cannot dream each other's dreams.  How were we to know?
Ender takes the cocoon and promises to find her a world to start again.  When he returns to the colony, he writes a book, a history of the formics from the memory of the queens.  They lament the tragedy of the wars, and it's really very beautiful aside from the terrifying undercurrent of pro-colonialist appropriation apologetics:
But still we welcome you as guestfriends.  come into our home, daughters of Earth; dwell in our tunnels, harvest our fields; what we cannot do, you are now our hands to do for us.
They did 'start it', as wars of annihilation go, but it's hard not to see this as the kind of thing that makes people think it's okay to co-opt the possessions of subjugated cultures, dressing up in warbonnets for Halloween and fracking for oil on sovereign First Nation land because, really, it's all our country now and all that killing happened a long time ago and it's not like those people are really around anymore, right?  And now we have the slaughtered people literally forgiving and welcoming their killers.

Ender signs this book as the Speaker for the Dead and it starts a tradition back on Earth, people who arrive at funerals and say "what the dead one would have said, but with full candor, hiding no faults and pretending no virtues", which just sounds like the most passive-aggressive eulogy in the history of I'm-just-being-honest-here.  The religion spreads; among the colonies, it's the only one that matters, because apparently Jesus' jurisdiction doesn't extend into space.

When Peter reads the book, he calls Ender by ansible, seventy-seven years old to Ender's twenty-three, asks Ender to write his biography as the Speaker, and pours out his life story.  (It's not told here, obviously, because it's a retcon in addition to being a huge spoiler, but since there is no way I'm wading through the entire Shadow series, I'll mention that at this point Peter is married to Petra and they have like a dozen kids.)  The Hive-Queen and the Hegemon become "holy writ", because in addition to being the greatest general of all time and a starshipwright and a governor and a judge, Ender is also a prophet and poet, I guess?

One day, Ender asks Valentine to leave, says they should skip across the galaxy at lightspeed and let centuries fall away.  Especially disturbing:
"We have to go.  I'm almost happy here." 
"So stay." 
"I've lived too long with pain.  I won't know who I am without it."
Gluuuuuuuuuurge.  Apparently no one else in the last decade has thought to suggest that Ender should get a therapist either.  But he does have a real goal, because he needs to find a world for the formic queen to hatch, so they travel, Andrew Wiggin the Speaker for the Dead and Valentine Wiggin "writing down the stories of the living while Ender spoke the stories of the dead".  And for once I don't know what happens next.

I will confess that I hated this chapter the first time I read it.  What a backhand, what a theft, to have everything that the heroes suffer for be taken away: it didn't have to happen, it was a tragedy that it happened, it would have been better if they had failed.  That is a bitter fucking pill to swallow, especially for a teenager who thought he was smarter than everyone else and wished he could make the bullies see just how much better he was than them.  (By 'he' I mean 'me', if that could be more obvious.)  In theory, it's what gives the book its weight and teaches kids the value of compassion and communication, and rescues the book from the last 300 pages of 'I have to torture him to make him stronger and save everyone' by explaining that it was all for nothing.

Except... well, the last-minute twist comes in the final ten pages and the "I did what I had to do" abuse and endangerment and murder got the whole book.  They say that François Truffaut once claimed it was impossible to make a true anti-war movie because any war movie by its nature glorifies war.  (I'm going to crack again and just link to TVtropes' "Do Not Do This Cool Thing"--they may be stamp collectors, but that's a hell of a collection.)  The pro-empathy, anti-abuse, anti-violence message at the end of this book is about as compelling and hilarious as an abstinence message would be at the end of Fifty Shades of Grey.  (Worse, actually--Fifty Shades does make sex look terrifying.)  And while we might be told the war wasn't worth it, nothing has yet tarnished Ender's flawless goodness in the eyes of the narrative, despite that time he murdered a boy on the playground because they shoved him, and everything he's done since then.

After this comes Speaker for the Dead, the story that Card actually wanted to tell, for which he turned Ender's Game from a short into a novel-length backstory.  In theory, that whole book is the response to this one, and I'm curious enough to keep reading it, though I'll have to track down a copy first--I think my mother still owns one.  (I'm sure as hell not giving Card any more money.)  And there is also Ender's Shadow, which tells Bean's story during these same few years, from childhood to the destruction of the formics, which I do own.  Bean is a better person than Ender in most ways, and I think I might actually enjoy that one, which makes me want to leave it until I've endured Speaker.  Not sure.  Thoughts from the audience?

As a terrifying epilogue, next week I'll go back and look at the introduction to Ender's Game.  It might seem weird to leave it for now, and I've wanted to make reference to it in just about every post since I started, but I've left it this long intentionally.  After all, everyone in the introduction has already read the book--that's why I wanted to do so as well, and that's why it scares the hell out of me.  So that'll be fun.


  1. "though I wonder if they didn't have, say, specialised drones whose job it was to maintain continuity of thought"

    I wish there was continuity of plot, frankly, but I also wish for a pony and Santa has yet to come through on that so...

    I'm still processing this thing. I'll comment more when I can articulate further than easy snark. But who in their right minds thought this would make a great YA movie, fshizzle.

  2. I saw the movie yesterday, so I'll be interested to see the discussion of it. It really was not a great movie, although the effects on the space battles were pretty damn cool.

    Review-wise, I'd prefer Speaker for the Dead. It was always my favorite of the few Enderverse books I read, so I'm most curious to discuss/reread it and find out how terrible it really is.

  3. Speaker for the Dead is far more problematic than Ender's Game we should totally do it next to expose its weirdness about gender, ethnicity and family.

  4. Interesting that you identify Ender's galactic travels as meant to counter the jingoism of the rest of the novel.
    When I was plowing through it and reached the point where Ender found the Formic Queen egg, I had a brief leap of hope that something different and genuinely subversive might happen in spite of my knowledge of the sequel's rough storyline.

    I thought I was about to read that the Queen, by being able to communicate with Ender, had also gotten the ability to control him directly like they control the Formic drones. Cue Ender's destructive ability being turned directly on the human race a la Starcraft's Sarah Kerrigan, an ominous closing passage from Ender's now alien viewpoint, he brains his 11-year-old companion in the head with a rock and drags him into a cave to serve as fertilizer for his new mistress. "The game have just begun", da da DAH!

    I think that would be the only ending that could actually make the novel "work" as an Aesop, by exposing all the Ubermensch rationalizations as the double-edged weapon that they are. Graff trains humanities "savior", dies unpunished of old age believing that his actions were justified, but it's implied that Ender will return with a new Hive Fleet and close the cycle with the destruction of Earth. No sequels, no creepy pro-military flagwaving: violence begets violence, the end.

    Whether that would be an ending that would lead to the novel attaining the same level of success is questionable of course. I have a theory that fans of the story read it very passively, without creating the world they are reading about in their heads as they go, and so buy into all of OSC's contradictions without questioning them. The rest of us have to read with gritted teeth in the knowledge that something so obviously bungled has found such a large audience.

  5. Please do Speaker for the Dead next. When I read it years ago I practically only noticed the weirdness about ethnicity (being Brazilian and all), but that might have being because at the time I thought sexism was something I had to tolerate if I wanted to read science fiction.

  6. Another vote for Speaker for the Dead, which I recall loving and now want to see if it holds up (sadly, I doubt it).

  7. I can't decide whether all the ridiculousness of humanity being able to just move into insectoid alien homes and factories and the business of them taking their young with them into the fields is evidence that the Evil Human Powers That Be actually lied about the buggers being insectoid in the first place or evidence that the "it's all happening in the matrix and the super powerful computer program and the formics made peace ages ago" theory is correct. Or just proof that Card can't be bothered to make sense for five minutes straight.

  8. "Cue Ender's destructive ability being turned directly on the human race a la Starcraft's Sarah Kerrigan, an ominous closing passage from Ender's now alien viewpoint, he brains his 11-year-old companion in the head with a rock and drags him into a cave to serve as fertilizer for his new mistress. 'The game had just begun', da da DAH!"

    Now that would have been cool.

  9. I really hate the whole court-martial thing. It made no sense to me at all. Regardless of whether it was self-defense on Ender's part, Graff signally failed to prevent and actually assisted in the death of 2 children.
    I know Card did quite a lot of hand-waving around the issue of Ender needing to kill two boys in order to save humanity, but even if it was necessary (which I don't buy for a second) Graff was still guilty of child abuse and neglect leading to the death of a minor. Oh, wait, I forgot that this book is Card's paean to the ends justifying the means. Never mind then, that makes it totally ok for Graff to get away with child abuse.
    Speaker for the Dead is pretty awful in so many, many ways. I'd love to read your deconstruction. The Bean books, at least for me, just like Ender's Game do not show much evidence that Peter is a horrible, evil monster. Peter comes across as very power-hungry, manipulative, and lacking much compassion or interest in people who he can't use. That is not the same thing as evil, horrible monster.

  10. I don't know if I give him that much credit. It's easy enough to explain the book as the work of a man carrying a lot of cognitive dissonance, whose work naturally wound up reflecting that mindset, and its popularity being the result of exactly what you say - there being enough out there who will get behind a Mary Sue bullying victim especially if he also gets to be alpha as fuck by becoming Death, Destroyer of Worlds. I suppose after you've wiped out a species you never have to think of yourself as a picked on victim. It's a straightforward power fantasy / gratification.

    One creepy thing about how the book accomplishes this is how close "evil" Peter is to a classic scapegoat, of the kind that gets created by many dysfunctional families. The idea is that one member of the family takes the blame for everything bad everyone feels so that the others can feel like spotless upstanding citizens. As Ender's real parents are both ciphers, Val and Graff act like Ender's surrogate parents, both of whom tell him to commit xenocide, Peter is the "bad kid", and as a result, in OSC's mind, Ender cannot be blamed for anything. You have to wonder about the guy.

  11. "One creepy thing about how the book accomplishes this is how close 'evil' Peter is to a classic scapegoat, of the kind that gets created by many dysfunctional families."

    That's reasonable, because if you choose to read the Judeo-Christian mythos as a Family Drama, Satan The Rebel is exactly that kind of scapegoat.

  12. I'd be interested in seeing you do a de-construction of Ender's Shadow first. It would be cool to identify all of the ret-cons OSC had to do to turn the Bean of EG into what he was in ES.

    One big change that I really noticed when I first read ES was that Ender's staff in the Third Invasion seemed to consist of twelve people, not 36. However, it's been 5+ years since I read ES, so I could be mistaken.

  13. Please review Speaker for the Dead. I loved that book, and I'm ready to see whether that love was justified or not.

  14. When I initially read the "speaker or shadow" question I was going to say shadow, but on reflection speaker would also be a very interesting deconstruction and I'd like to see if my vague memories of reading it over a decade ago bear any resemblance to the actual text (my general impression was that it was really weird.)

  15. There was nothing at all in the original story about the nature of the aliens (It wasn't entirely clear that they were aliens); Mazer barely discussed them with Ender at all, and the story had only a single page of denouement with Graff and Anderson talking in a park.

    I'd prefer Speaker over Shadow, since I remember it as the most interesting novel of the series. One drawback, though, is that the story arc is incomplete; you really have to read Xenocide and Children of the Mind to find out how it ends, and frankly, they suck. (Actually Xenocide gives the explanation for one plot mystery from Ender's Game, namely why the mind game computer could do things even its programmers didn't know how it could do.)

  16. Thanks for going through all this, I've really enjoyed seeing you deconstruct this book!

    I'd vote for Speaker next, just because I remember a lot of stuff that struck me as pretty weird even as a conservative-raised high schooler. Of course, that might make you feel obliged to do Xenocide after, and I couldn't bear to subject anyone to that.

  17. First: I stumbled upon this deconstruction just days ago and devoured it. Thank you. Magnificent.

    Second: I'll cast another vote for Speaker of the Dead. The Shadow series comes next chronologically, but Card wrote Speaker first. Analyzing the books in the order they were created might reveal interesting things about Card's evolving perspective on the Enderverse.

    That said, I'll happily read these in any order you want to post them. Thanks again.

  18. I am far, far away from being caught up on this deconstructions, so perhaps this has already been said ...

    I always believed that Peter was much, much worse than Ender because of
    the things Peter did to squirrels. Ender hurt people, even killed
    people, because he was scared and thought that if he didn't destroy his
    enemy they would only hurt him in the future (an attitude which the
    adults in his life encouraged, not discouraged). Peter hurt squirrels
    because he needed to hurt things. So I actually do believe that Ender is
    better than Peter.

  19. I agree that nothing excuses Peter's cruelty to animals and it indicates sadism on a degree that Ender never apparently feels. I also think the book, despite being all about 'empathy', spends zero time whatsoever considering what Peter's life might have been like, what he might have experienced as a monitored child, either from bullies or by military meddling in his life prior to being cast aside and told that he didn't matter anymore because his baby brother was way better than him. And that Peter proceeds, at no urging but his own desires, to plan and implement a scheme that ends what could have been a decade-long world war, thus saving hundreds of millions of lives, and for this Ender and Valentine sneer at him. So I feel like it's a little more complicated.

    The thing about the anti-consequentialist morality of the book (which I can't yet compare to the movie) is that no one else particularly cares that Peter hurt squirrels, because that's 'only' an action--they hate him because he wanted to hurt squirrels. Which is the same reason they don't care that Peter saved the world (because he didn't do it purely for the joy of saving lives) or that Ender killed two kids and an entire civilisation (because at least he was sad about it afterwards).

  20. Speaker (and the sequels) are definitely very different books from Ender's Game, in the same sense that The Hobbit is very different from The Lord of the Rings. I'd find their deconstruction more interesting than that of Shadow.

    One thing that occurred to me today after reading your deconstruction is that Ender seems to me to live how OSC would think a "good" gay boy/man would act. In Ender's game we get more than a bit of homo-erotic subtext, but Ender himself (and the other students) doesn't have any sexual feelings at all that we see. (Which makes sense; it's a book meant for kids, and Ender anyway is young enough for this to be plausible.)

    IIRC, in the later books Ender has a pretty darn chaste marriage which eventually devolves into avowed celibacy. (Isn't this what the Mormon church suggests gay people do as an alternative to actually being out? Or maybe it's what Card thinks the Catholic Church suggests for gay people?) He never has any biological children; spawning via spontaneous generation instead.

  21. To add to this, I thought it was funny that the only intentionally sexualized descriptive passage in the first book was the flashback of the male Formics all mating with one Queen and then dying immediately after. That may be the only passage referencing heterosexual feelings at all, and it's alien sex as a form of suicide.

  22. I'll add a vote for Speaker, but now we're out of territory that I've read, so it gets to be new experience for me.

    As for this end chapter, Graff avoiding being stripped of rank and living out his life in a brig somewhere very far away says there has to have been serious string-pulling going on through the entire trial, especially since from the outset, we're told that it's supposed to be Ender on trial-by-proxy, not Graff on trial for having done all the things he's done to produce this result. Even if he did not directly order the planet-bust, he had a responsibility for the actions of his subordinates in the for Graff to escape...kangaroos.

    Peter becomes ruler of Earth. How old is he when he manages this? I mean, the United States says "you must be 35 to lead the country" and "you must be 28 to legislate", so I presume there's a rule somewhere that says "you must be this old to be Hegemon", which Peter can't have hit at this point. And that leaves the other Wiggin children to go rule a colony, which seems like the consolation prize. At least until we find that there is a Formic egg left. I'm surprised Ender's companion doesn't try to crush it, which would allow Ender to show his commitment by defending the egg.

    Irreverently, this post-war Ender tracks like G'Kar from Babylon 5, except G'Kar had the good sense to realize he didn't really want to be a prophet and spent the rest of the series trying to get out of it as much as possible. Ender doesn't seem to have that self-awareness.

  23. Peter's ascension to the Hegemony is detailed in the further Shadow series, and it's not the worst arc ever--basically by the time he becomes Hegemon (age 20?) it's a figurehead position, and he has to manually unite the world country-by-country after all. The Shadow Peter bears little to no resemblance to the Peter we see in Ender's Game, and I basically consider them alternate continuities.

    Ender doesn't let Abra come into the tower with him, so there's no attempt to smash, and Ender pretty much keeps the egg secret forever.

  24. I dunno. As you've pointed out yourself on many valid occasions, Peter isn't one-tenth as evil as Ender and Valentine make him out to be. They take his murderous threats seriously, he claims he's just playing them, and it doesn't feel like much of a stretch for him to be telling the truth about that after all. The world would be a scary place (okay, scarier) if every insufferable 10-year-old bully failed to develop more compassion before reaching adulthood.

    The only discontinuity is the animal murder. That's a big one, I grant you. OSC retcons a possible explanation for it in Xenocide, one that makes Peter not a total psychopath.

  25. You have to wonder what OSC's childhood was like.

    He says
    [...]when I was novelizing Ender's Game (the short story has no family in it), I had no conscious thought of the Stone Tables character roster -- I simply drew on my own family as I saw it when I was seven or eight.
    (He was answering a question from someone who saw parallels between the Wiggin family and Moses' family as portrayed in his novel Stone Tables.)

  26. Does anybody care if I spoil the squirrel retcon from Xenocide?

  27. I had never heard of the squirrels coming up again later, so I'm quite curious. I don't think anyone here much minds spoilers, so feel free. (In general, you can always post spoilers under rot13 regardless.)

  28. A character in Xenocide (or possibly Children of the Mind, I don't remember) speculates that Valentine misinterpreted Peter's actions. Maybe Peter was just doing experiments on those squirrels to satisfy his scientific curiosity.


    Peter's actions, as described in the first book, don't sound like any scientific experiments that I've ever heard of, but whatever. Somewhere along the line, Card probably decided that he wanted to make Peter an unambiguous good guy, which meant he was going to have to explain the squirrels.

    "But the squirrels who were getting staked alive didn't care whether Peter was doing it for sadism or scientific curiosity!" Pish tosh. INTENTION IS MAGIC.

  29. How did the Formics know which planet Ender would migrate to? Did they leave a queen on every colony world?

  30. ...You know, I had always thought there was some explanation for that through the ansible/philotic network, but since Ender didn't even decide to leave until a year after the war ended, let alone deciding which planets they should colonise first, it's completely unexplained.

    The only justification I can make up is that the formics also connected to Graff's mind and implanted the suggestion that Ender should colonise that world in particular, but if they had the power to direct that much, you'd think they would do a lot more with it.

  31. That's it. *throws up hands* They're all in the matrix. It's become by far the simplest explanation.

  32. So I found these deconstructions last night and before I knew it, the sun was rising... What can I say, they were just that good. I remember reading Ender's Game and finding it entertaining when I was in junior high school, but already kind of aware of its nastier implications. I do remember liking Speaker for the Dead a lot more, loving it even, but it probably won't hold up to a deconstruction so I'm eager to see what you do with it. I still think its depiction of a first contact situation is brilliantly done, though, and I'm pretty sure I found Ender as an adult a lot more interesting than Ender as an accidentally genocidal murderous child. Maybe that's why Card basically turned Ender into a nonentity in the last two books.

    One of the most interesting ideas that's come up in the discussions is how much better the book would be if there were multiple Chosen Ones and Ender was just the one who proved most promising. Multiple competing Chosen Ones is just a concept rife with delicious conflict, but I don't think I'm seen it much in fiction; about the only example I can think of is Garth Nix's awesome YA sci fi novel A Confusion of Princes, in which specially trained and genetically engineered kids are raised until they're seventeen thinking that they're the Chosen One who will become the next Emperor...only to get thrust out into the wider world (er, galaxy), and learn that they're only one among...a million, I think? (It's a galaxy-spanning empire, so that number is not as ridiculous as it seems). And then they have to compete with one another. Naturally, most of the kids like that, including the protagonist, are arrogant and entitled little shits, but this is treated as a bad thing and it's heavily implied a lot of their worldview comes from not just propaganda but mind-programming. Fascinating stuff, really, and it shows just how much potential Ender's Game missed--but then again, Card wouldn't want to do anything to reduce Ender's extra super specialness.

  33. I noticed on reading your quoting of the "We'll repeal the population limitation laws [...] and all those
    thirds and fourths and fifths will get on starships and head out for
    worlds known and unknown." part something I hadn't thought of before. (and I don't know how to un-italics this so we're stuck this way now)
    Card seems to be saying, "and now we can get rid of the discriminatory laws (that would be discriminatory towards religious white people who just want to have lots of babies like God intended and lets not think about real world discriminatory laws that aren't towards white people) and the world is so lovely THANK YOU ENDER!" But the part where all those thirds etc. are sent away from Earth? That seems like it's just a different discrimination. "Legitimate" first- and secondborns are given citizenship to stay on Earth. Anyone born after is expected to leave. Generally new colonies are less likely to offer the general comforts of the place of origin, more likely to include hard labour. Also, looking at history, much more likely to have a high death rate. Thirds and such still look like second class citizens in Graff's view of their future.

    But then Graff is already clearly on board with the government commissioning children from the general population for their own uses, including leaving home and dying young if the government requires it.

  34. Speaking of commissioning children... we're told that Ender's parents are happy (and conflicted) about the government commissioning a "legitimate" third from them. Was it ever made clear that they had any choice about it? Can the government in this world force people to become pregnant, carry, birth, raise to a certain age and then give up children? If Ender's parents hadn't become pregnant would the government have forced them to undergo IVF until the woman produced the commissioned child or was proven medically incapable?

    Card's view seems to be that OF COURSE all people secretly want to get married and have bucketloads of children even if that means sending those children away to never be seen again and likely die young.

  35. It is perhaps one of the few mercies of the book that we never find out if the government can force parents to have an additional child against their will. Goddamn terrifying. (In-universe, I think it's Objective Fact that everyone wants kids, even the ones who think they don't, but that is not a solution in any way.)

  36. Card's view seems to be that OF COURSE all people secretly want to get married and have bucketloads of children even if that means sending those children away to never be seen again and likely die young.

    Hrm. One more for the 'protoImperium' theory...

  37. Mind you, Graff does have the mind of a colonist in the old meet-new-people-take-their-land-and-commit-war-crimes style.

    It's hilarious because it's HORRIFYING.

    I suspect we're supposed to think he's being too hard on himself,

    This is where I get really pissy with privileged authors writing privileged people, the whole 'if Ender/Caspian accuses HIMSELF of war-crimes, the audience will step in to reassure him'.

    One thing I really liked about, say, The Hunger Games, was that Katniss' survivor guilt was (largely) about Failure To Save People, as opposed to Whoops, I Committed Genocide. I can get on board with the former being 'realistic but unfair to self', but not so much with the latter.

    Your conviction that he's made of murderousness is fanon.

    LOVE. You know, you get the impression that when Peter was rejected from military school for being Too Violent, they took out a fucking billboard in his town or something, considering how thoroughly his younger siblings internalized this. (But his GENIUS PARENTS didn't know!)

    Your conviction that he's made of murderousness is fanon.


    I, uh, did not think it was possible for me to hate Orson Scott Card's writing more than I already did.

    I was wrong.


  38. Seriously. I mean, how'd they know he'd migrate AT ALL?

  39. I'm guessing that your last quote was meant to be about Peter and Petra getting married, and copy-paste betrayed you as it betrays us all in the end.

    There are ways in which the Peter/Petra hookup is not terrible, but they are few, and they start with the point that Peter in the Shadow books is unrecognisable as Peter from Ender's Game. From Peter's very first scene in Shadow of the Hegemon, he has no malice, no hunger to dominate weaker beings, not the slightest urge for sadism. He's just a teenager who literally has more power than he knows what to do with (now trying to manage both the Locke and Demosthenes personas) while avoiding the notice of his suspicious and embarrassing parents. He is still trying to become Hegemon, but it's because he wants to save the world from warmongers. His major flaws that he needs to overcome over the course of the books are his arrogance/difficulty trusting others and his fear of being on the ground and in the spotlight instead of safely hidden behind screennames. I don't even consider them the same character; it would be nonsensical.

  40. COPY PASTA BETRAYAL. Fixed, and thank you. :)

    I think I would be pissy about the Petra thing anyway, because it feels a LOT like:

    1. Genius Women are important because they have Genius Children. (I think I wrote about this in that Curse of the Smart Girl post, that their jobs in Endings are not to govern but to make babies.)

    2. Genius Women are attracted to Powerful Men* because they objectively realize that those men are The Best. As opposed to maybe Petra hooking up with someone who is nice enough to do the dishes on her Genociders Anon Therapy Nights. JUST SAYIN'.

    * Cue that scene in Spaceballs. You know the one I mean. XD

  41. Yeah--Petra's affection for Bean appears to be based on his having enough respect for her to believe that she is smart/strong/moral even when everyone else (quite regularly) assumes that her actions are based on personal or ideological weakness, which I guess isn't the worst starting point? And if I recall, her desperation to have Bean's kids comes up when she learns that Bean will die before age 30 and she wants him to continue to exist (seriously, Card and genetic continuity, it's creepy). Her last-minute hookup with Peter is completely out of nowhere, since we don't see how/why Peter fell for her and her own reasoning seems to be "Welp, first husband is gone, better get another".

    Shadow of the Hegemon features Petra criticising herself for having bought into your point 2 (she also had a crush on Ender because she thought he was The Best Person, but in retrospect she feels this was stupid). Her not-quite-a-thing with Dink might have been more normal and healthy, but that bridge gets burnt in like chapter three.

  42. I'm trying to tease this out, so this might seem backasswards.

    If I was a survivor of Genocide Club, I'm not sure I would want to MARRY someone else who survived Genocide Club. I mean, I can see some of the appeal -- here is someone who can understand what you've been through, because they lived it too.

    But. I've had a physical disability my whole life. I've... pretty much universally looked to able-bodied mates, because relationships are partnerships and an able-bodied person can fill in gaps that I can't fill. My current (and, I hope, forever) mate has mental/personality issues that I help fill in -- we sort of fit like a puzzle with each of us spackling in the gaps the other can't reach. (Holy mixed metaphors, Batman!)

    In a truly misogynist world, I sympathize with Petra latching on to the one guy who doesn't treat her like dirt, because that's NOT NOTHING. Obvs. But... the Ender Kids are HEROES. It seems like Petra shouldn't have as much of a hard time finding people to admire her, even if it's as an Exceptional Woman. She's not -- she SHOULDN'T BE -- the same status as 'normal women' in her world. It's plausible that she still would be, but Card needs to justify that -- he can't have Ender be ALL THE THINGS because of war-worship, but Petra is chopped liver.

    And in that light, it seems like Petra should have more Non-Treats-Me-Like-Shit options than comrades she literally grew up with. (I guess Bean was a launchie, so maybe not him, but that still leaves all their time together NOW -- they're still 15-ish, right??)

    And... I feel like Petra would be the sort of person to recognize, like I did, that she has gaps in herself that will need filling by someone different from herself. Maybe that's just a me-thing and I'm projecting, but I've had that understanding for as long as I can remember -- a sort of logical analysis of mates and marriage that, while it's not 100% the guiding principle, it's something I always had in the back of my mind. A reality that I didn't like but wasn't going to ignore.

    And, honestly, Bean is such a shit in Ender's Game, that it's hard for me to see him as the one non-misogynist in the world. When you're basking in your SMARTS PRIVILEGE, there's not a lot of room in there to accept that, say, the one woman in the Ender Team faced different challenges on her way there. But wev.

    I have more thoughts, but this is getting LOOOOOONG. In short, I don't think Card writes convincing ladies. Surprise!!! XD

  43. In terms of Petra's ability to meet other people--within about twenty pages she cements herself as one of the three greatest enemies of the most powerful villain in the world (the other two being Bean and Peter, obviously) and so spends the next two books either on the run or imprisoned/protective custody. And, to her credit, she spends basically none of her time thinking that she needs to find a boyfriend.

    The complementarity is trickier because all of the super-geniuses labour under the burden of being surrounded by Incredibly Stupid Normal People, and inevitably only feel free and refreshed when they can talk to other geniuses, so already the pool is small. With Bean, I don't think there is any consideration of how they complement each other because the only thing that Petra wants out of it is for Bean's bloodline to continue because she admires him so much, and the rest of their relationship is basically an action movie of saving each other's lives and then making out. How the relationship actually functions would be a much bigger deal when it comes to Peter, but all of that is offscreen, so we have no idea what anyone is doing there. The healthiest relationship we see in all of the Enderverse books is probably that of Mom and Dad Wiggin, but possibly Card decided he only needed one of those in his career.

  44. within about twenty pages she cements herself as one of the three greatest enemies of the most powerful villain in the world

    Whoops! One of the pitfalls of Complaining About Books I've Not Read. That makes more sense.

    With Bean, I don't think there is any consideration of how they complement each other because the only thing that Petra wants out of it is for Bean's bloodline to continue because she admires him so much


    [CN: Infertility]

    So, I will admit that finding out I can't have children WAS challenging in a "my genetic line ends here" kind of thing. (Also worth noting: My familial name ends with me, too. I mean, not that there aren't other people with my birth surname, but through a complex series of events, I am basically The Last of my family.) All of this WAS something I had to work through personally.

    But! But. But... the above is just... CREEPY. It's like OSC took a semi-normal impulse and inflated it into Super Creepy On Steroids Creeptastic. It's like fetishizing Bean instead of loving him. That's not admiration -- that objectification. *shivers*

  45. It is definitely creepy, even though much ink is spent spinning it as something sweet--the idea that a relationship is something that is both separate and additional to the people involved, and the kid is a physical representation of that thing, and gnah, it's a whole bunch of conversations that almost feel realistic because they're so awkward.

    Now that we've finished Ender's Game and surveyed its horrors, it is a commentary in itself that I am completely unwilling to do a similar analysis of the latter Shadow books.

    I sympathise on the issues of name/bloodline continuity, which I've also tangled with a bit over recent years, though things are still much more up-in-the-air for me. Sometimes I suspect that Card's obsession with genetics and bloodlines is part of why he goes completely off the rails in regards to same-sex couples.

  46. It's... SO... I don't even. The more I look at it, the more my head tilts.

    There's a lot of really gross ideas in there about women being obliged / expected to birth children in order to do the whole Genetic Continuance favor for men. (Whether Bean thinks that or not is irrelevant to it being there, if that makes sense. IMO, obvs.)

    And that Petra is clamoring to do this is problematic for me because it fits into that Smart Girl ideal -- that women are walking wombs only differentiated by how good an environment (genetics, smarts, etc.) we provide in our wombs. Like the children are sperm-babies ONLY and the woman's smartness/exceptionalness just affects the quality of the petri dish. As opposed to being co-parents of the child.

    (Ironically, one of the reasons I'm Last of My Paternal Line is because dad's siblings almost universally turned out to be gay and/or infertile, and none of them went with art-sem. And, of course, I continued the infertile trend. Shockingly, we all independently came to the conclusion that living a happy life was, on balance, more important to us than genetic blueprints.)

    I feel you on the Shadow stuff. I thought for awhile I might do Lewis' space trilogy, but I'm not really sold on exposing myself to his "best" awfulness.

  47. Also, I CANNOT EVEN IMAGINE trying to deal with a terminal illness while someone was begging me to leave some genetic material with them so that I can continue on. It feels so incredibly selfish. Like, YOU DO REALIZE I'm still dying, right?!

    It's a weird blend of obliging Petra to give her life raising a child to satisfy OSC's genetic fetish + obliging Bean to sideline his feels about dying to satisfy OSC's genetic fetish.

    Like, he does realize that multi-generational games where you take over the hero's offspring as a new hero with different stats IS NOT REAL LIFE, right?????

  48. Like, he does realize that multi-generational games where you take over the hero's offspring as a new hero with different stats IS NOT REAL LIFE, right?????


    No, no, I am not sure he does.

  49. That would explain a lot, then. XD

  50. My vote goes to Shadow next, not because there's not as much or more to deconstruct in Speaker, but because I think Shadow has more in common with Ender's Game, & before departing to new & weirder themes, it might be nice to get the parallax view.

  51. I'm sort of surprised that nobody's commented on the whole Speaker for the Dead religion and how it turns out to be the one religion that spreads throughout the galaxy. That struck me as just basically bizarre, not just a way of turning Ender into Jesus almost literally (and he certainly wouldn't qualify based on his behavior), but because I couldn't see from this book (nor from Speaker, which I liked better than this one) exactly what this "religion" had to offer anyone.

    Think about it: Ender writes a biography of the Hive Queen, the mortal enemy of human beings for decades (and all I can think of is the lines from _I, Claudius_, where Sejanus says, "It's easy to love the dead," and Livia responds, "I wouldn't count on that if I were you"), and a biography of his brother, the Hegemon. Suppose they were the most brilliantly, most poetically, most beautifully written biographies in the history of writing (why not? Ender is the perfect human being). Still, they're just biographies, right? There's no moral instruction, there's no clues for how to live your life, there's no finding a deeper meaning in the universe in them. How would they turn into the holy books of a new religion?

    Especially when, and here I'm thinking about Speaker because there's precious little in this throwaway paragraph in Ender's Game, the whole practice of the religion seems to be someone coming to your home and telling everybody everything about you after you're dead. It's as if Card thinks this is some radical innovation that no human being has ever considered before, as if he's never been to a good memorial service, never even been to a good wake. And this is a religion???

    It makes no sense. It never made sense to me.

  52. I can sort of see how The Hive Queen would become a spiritual text, specifically because it's so alien and it spins a lot of people's assumptions on their heads, and could get people trying to grapple with the idea of life that is not as we understand it, empathising with total unfamiliarity. That and the hospitality-from-beyond-the-grave thing that the last queen does. Mind you, no one else knows that there is a surviving queen, so Ender's book should be viewed as weird fiction, not true history.

    I'm not sure how that religion would tie into the 'religion' of super-passive-aggressive eulogists roaming the galaxy. Hoping that Speaker for the Dead will flesh that out more, but my hopes are not high.

    How The Hegemon would become a similarly revered scripture makes no sense to me at all, since we have zero details on Peter's life at this point or how he became Hegemon, how he changed over time, or if he changed at all. I guess the whole 'tell a person's life story as honestly as possible', like a ghostwritten autobiography, could be a model for Speakers to follow, but the text itself? I really don't know.

  53. @ boutet, yeah, that's... yeah. I know that when we were trying to conceive, the whole "my child will almost certainly have scoliosis based on family medical history" was a thing that we REALLY had to grapple with. (And one of the reasons why we wanted to select for an XX instead of an XY was because of some other medical issues in said family.)

    We eventually decided to go forward, but a BIG consideration was that scoliosis can be corrected with a brace if you catch it early on, and we'd have been looking for it damn near daily. Something that cannot be corrected... I dunno. I'd have to have given it a LOT of thought, and pressury pressure would NOT have helped.

  54. The worst part about the passive-aggressive eulogists is how they hang about for a tip after. DUDE, we already paid you one hundred space-bucks to show up and spout bullshit for five minutes. Feck off.

    /satire, not meant to be reflective of any actual profession

  55. Ender is SO AWESOME that he's not just Jesus AND the Pope, he's also ALL THE PRIESTS. All of them. /guessing

  56. Yes. On re-reading my comment it doesn't really make clear that I'm uncomfortable with him being -pressured- to have children with that hanging over him, not that he might choose to have children that might also have that illness. I hope it didn't read that way, but it's possible so I wanted to be clear.

  57. CN: fat shaming, self-hatred, violence.
    The mention of fat shaming sparked a memory of something OSC wrote in his afterword to a story called “Fat Farm”. Here is an abridged version of that afterword; the omissions are mostly accounts of the ups and downs of his struggles to keep his weight down.
    My life can be viewed as one long struggle with my own body. […] Then, when I was about fifteen, I passed some sort of metabolic threshold. I had always been an outrageously skinny kid—you could count my ribs through my shirt. All of a sudden, though, without any change that I was aware of in my eating habits, I began to gain weight. […] As the years passed, I gained a little more weight and began to discover that the abuse heaped upon nerds in childhood is nothing like the open, naked bigotry displayed toward adults who are overweight. People who would never dream of mocking a [physically disabled person] or making racial or ethnic slurs feel no qualms about poking or pinching a fat person’s midriff and making obscenely personal remarks. My hatred of such people was limitless. Some of my acquaintances in those days had no notion how close they came to immediate death.
    The only thing that keeps fat people from striking back is that, in our hearts, most of us fear that our tormentors are right, that we somehow deserve their contempt, their utter despite for us as human beings. Their loathing for us is only surpassed by our loathing for ourselves.
    I was near 265 pounds when I wrote “Fat Farm.” It was an exercise in self-loathing and desperate hope. I knew that I was capable of having a strong, healthy body, but lacked the discipline to create it for myself. I had actually gone through the experience of trading bodies—it just took me longer than it took the hero of the story. In a way, I suppose the story was a wish that someone would make me change.
    And it’s no accident that the story ends with our hero set up to fulfill ugly violent assignments. The undercurrent of violence is real. I hereby warn all those who think it’s all right to greet a friend by saying, “Put on a little weight, haven’t you!” You would never dream of greeting a friend by saying, “Wow, that’s quite an enormous pimple you’ve got on your nose there,” or, “Can’t you afford to buy clothes that look good or do you just have no taste?” If you did, you would expect to lose the friend. Well, be prepared. Some of us are about to run out of patience with your criminal boorishness. Someday one of you is going to glance down at our waistline, grin, and then—before you can utter one syllable of your offensive slur—we’re going to break you into a pile of skinny little matchsticks. No jury of fat people would convict us.
    The term he used for “physically disabled person” was widely considered offensive back then; perhaps he hadn’t gotten the memo. I began to feel sorry for OSC when I re-read this, but then came across the next afterword, to his story “Closing the Timelid”, which contains a very homophobic remark, and sympathy became hard to maintain.

  58. OSC's whole career is kind of fascinating as study of a person who seems to have dozens of very close calls with learning how empathy and oppression works, who then dashes rapidly back towards the safe realm of sneering and frothing at people who are different in The Wrong Way.

  59. Ordinarily, I gloss over casual death threats as just people exaggerating how they feel (as when my coworkers and I joke about installing a piranha tank for obnoxious patrons), but it creeps me out from Card. It just isn't the same coming from the guy who wrote Ender's Game.

  60. The thing I found creepiest of all about the later Shadow books (and there was a LOT to choose from) was Bean was quite explicit, for very good well-thought-out reasons, that he did not want to have children. But Petra totally ignores this (or rather, pays attention only to argue with Bean). And knowing Orson Scott Card's line of thinking as I do, I was pretty sure Petra would win in the end. I lost the second Shadow book (and wasn't sorry) and only glanced through the third one, decided not to buy it.

  61. This has been great. Thank you.

    My vote would be for Speaker next, then Ender's Shadow.

  62. I assumed that it was the nearest world to Earth, and therefore the one that they could assume the first human colonists would travel to....

  63. I can think of a couple of ways to work that out - I mean, they obviously had some kind of connection with Ender's mind, however Orson Scott Card retcons it in Xenocide. They might have picked up on Ender's feelings of alienation and loneliness and recognised them as mental structures equivalent to those in a bugger queen who wanted to emigrate.

    What would have been truly neat would be if every bugger colony world (or at least many of them, because perhaps not all would have had a queen larva ready to be cocooned at the time they would need her) had one of these Giant's Drink/Fairyland/End of the World puzzle-spaces, each with a coccooned queen hidden in a space that only Ender would be able to instantly find. That would have given Ender some real motivation to keep travelling from world to world, and by the time of Speaker for the Dead he could have built up quite a collection of cocoons...

    But Orson Scott Card never thought of that....

  64. CN: homophobia
    BTW, the homophobic remark I mentioned was my very first inkling that OSC was a nasty bigot (which fact wasn’t such common knowledge twenty years ago as today). I’ve quoted it elsewhere, in case anyone feels some need to see it:

  65. Just wanted to say thank you and congratulations on finishing this epic project! I've always been too far behind to comment, but I've really enjoyed reading along.

  66. It's never too late to comment! People go back and leave comments on the old posts all the time and I love it. If you have thoughts or protests or questions or you think I missed something, always feel free to post about it. And thank you for reading!

  67. Have you heard of the short anime Aim For The Top! Gunbuster? It came out a few years after Ender's Game and there's some pretty interesting parallels (and a lot less fail overall). A few posts ago it was mentioned how Ender's Game basically gets nothing out of how it handles time dilation, whereas it's a major theme in Gunbuster. And it's also about a young genius pilot recruited to pilot Earth's superweapon into battle against the mysterious STMCs. It manages to be quite a bit more realistic while still having a similiar feel of "young genius overcoming" that is all over Ender's Game. Though in Gunbuster's case, the protag isn't very good at first and has to learn BUT is exceptional at learning, as opposed to EG's nonsense of Ender being the best at everything ever.